A small town of only 58,000 people, Lampang’s allure is clearly its simplicity of life and smiling residents. While all may appear serene and uneventful on the surface, one is quick to learn that many great gems of industry exist beneath the town’s unassu
LEGEND OF LAMPANG & WAT PRAKAEWDONTAO
The legend of Lampang plays a significant role in the multifaceted tale of the Emerald Buddha, which is considered to be the national treasure of Thailand. As there are many tales that involve this legendary palladium, the Emerald Buddha in question refers specifically to the one located in Wat Phra That Lampang Luang. The legend begins with a young woman by the name of Chao Mae Suchada, who grew an unusually large melon during a time of famine. Due to her kind nature and charitable spirit, the young lady decided to share the melon with an abbot from the nearby monastery. However the gods during the time had bigger plans as the melon was willed to be shaped into a Buddha image through the intervention of Indra, a noted deity in both Buddhist and Hindu mythology. While relationships between Mae Suchada and the abbot remained pure of heart, rumours started circulating that the couple had been sexually involved. This caught the attention of the Lanna king then who upon hearing the false accusations ordered the brutal beheading of Suchada. Upon her death, Suchada cursed the town of Lampang stating that an indication of innocence would be that her blood would float upwards towards the sky which happened the moment the beheading stroke fell and the residents of the town cried out in horror over their ignorance. So deep was the influence of this myth on the town that many have attributed the failure of the town to develop some of its industries to this mythical tale. For those who wish to obtain a closer look at the story, the famous tale is well depicted by statues built in Wat Phra Kaew Dontao which shares adjacent grounds with another temple called Wat Suchadaram. The graven image that was crafted by the abbot and Indra is now housed in Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, one of the most highly revered temples in Thailand.
WAT PHRA THAT LAMPANG LUANG
Possibly one of the oldest and most intact temples of Thailand, the Wat Phra That Lampang Luang is the crown jewel of temples in Lampang
Old and worn may describe the setting one feels when entering, but the stories that lie behind the Wat Phra That Lampang Luang certainly give reason for its tired-looking exterior.
Possibly one of the oldest and most intact temples of Thailand, the Wat Phra That Lampang Luang is the crown jewel of temples in Lampang as it houses many relics for Buddhist devotees and plays a significant role in the history of Lampang.
Entering the temple, one would see that much of the architecture within the temple remains largely untouched and still remains filled with sand. The temple is also frequently visited by pigeons which have since grown accustomed to the presence of people who have come to pray. Its main prayer hall (viharn luang) is situated right after the main entrance and is open on all sides. Within the hall sits a massive Buddha statue called the “Phra Chao Lang Thong” enclosed within a shimmering pagoda.
Another sight to behold is the enormous 45m tall chendi located behind the viharn which is rumoured to be the oldest structure in the temple. For Buddhist devotees, the huge chendi is said to house the hair relic of Lord Buddha which was donated some 2,500 years ago.
On the railings of the chendi, one may also find several bullet holes which were said to be created by legendary folk hero Nan Thipchang, an ancestor of the house of Chao Chet Ton which ruled Lanna as a Siamese vassal during the Thonburi eras.
A curious-looking structure situated somewhere in the temple grounds bears notice as a prominent sign outside states explicitly that women are not allowed to enter. The small tower-like structure is called the Ho Phra Phuttabat, said to house the footprint of Lord Buddha and is only open to the public on important festival dates. A grey statue of the footprint is also available in the viharn luang and can be easily identified by the coins that have been donated onto it.
A small chapel called the Wiharn Phra Phut is located to left of the main prayer hall and is perhaps the most beautiful structure in the courtyard. From its exterior one can see the original teak wood pillars and the beautifully carved wooden façade complemented by colourful glass shards.
Exiting the court yard, you will find yourself in a huge bodhi tree garden with the trees supported by wooden stilts. The bodhi tree is revered in the Buddhist religion primarily because the tree was where Prince Siddartha Gautama or Lord Buddha first achieved enlightenment. According to ancient Buddhist texts, the Buddha meditated under the tree without moving from his seat for seven days.
DHANABADEE CERAMIC MUSEUM
Enter any ancient coffee shop which serves wonton noodles and other delightful Chinese delicacies and you would be greeted with the sight of chicken bowls. While some attribute the founding of the bowls to ancient China, some swear that they were in fact from Thailand.
Putting all arguments to rest, this heritage product initially originated from Guangdong, China and found a new place to call home courtesy of founder Chin Sim Yu (Mr. E) who forged the ceramic industry of Lampang back in the 1950s.
To commemorate his works, the Dhanabadee Ceramic Museum was set up and within it one can find the immortalised bust of Mr. E. Among the first developments of the ceramic industry in Lampang was the setting up of Dhanababesakul Crockery by Mr. E and his partners in 1965. This happened following the discovery of kaolinite deposits nearby, which was vital to the production of the chicken bowls. The ceramic-making industry subsequently received a significant boost from the government of Thailand following the ban of chicken bowls from China in 1957 by Field Marshal P. Pibulsongkram.
Till this day, the production of chicken bowls is still a very manual process with workers fastidiously hand-painting each bowl, an extremely time-consuming process to preserve the utmost authenticity of each piece. Within the museum is also the oldest insulated thermal chamber in the Lampang Province called the “Dragon Kiln”. The kiln would generally be fired up to searing temperatures of 1,260 degrees Celcius in order to form a durable chicken bowl. It is one of the national archaeological items of Thailand and took about 1 year to build. A magnificent feat during that time, the kiln could house up to 8,000 chicken bowls in a single firing.
Among the sights in the museum that should not be missed is the smallest chicken bowl in the world, even smaller than a Thai coin, which can be viewed though a glass enclosure while touring the museum. Another record which was achieved by the museum is the world’s thinnest chicken bowl which measures only 900 micrometres. To put things into perspective, that’s the length of two dust mites.
The Dhanabadee Ceramic Museum was developed by Panasin Dhanabadee, the second son of Mr. E in an attempt to preserve the living and breathing arts of ceramicmaking. Visitors may also be able to try their hands at painting and developing ceramic arts of their own for a small fee. A ceramic shop is also available nearby for those who would like to purchase high quality ceramic souvenirs (www.dhanabadee.com).
The oldest insulated thermal chamber in Lampang Province called the “Dragon Kiln” could house up to 8,000 chicken bowls in a single firing
ABOVE Statues depicting the legendary tale of Chao Mae Suchada, her watermelon and the abbot
RIGHT Explanations regarding the Emerald Buddha statue and the story of Chao Mae Suchada
ABOVE Viharn Phrat But
LEFT Entrance to the Wat Phra That Lampang Lua
Immortalised bust of Mr Chin Simyu, also affectionately known as Mr. E
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT World’s thinnest chicken bowl which measures only 900 micron
The signature chicken bowls of Dhanabadee Group